A column by Cllr Millard, Leader of East Hampshire District Council
We all know the coronavirus has presented us with new and difficult challenges, but it has also revealed the depth and strength of our communities.
They say you see a person’s real character in adversity - and if that’s true then the character of the people of East Hampshire has not been found wanting.
Since the lockdown was announced on 23 March an incredible 142 local groups have swung into action and volunteered to help the district’s sick or isolated.
What a phenomenal response.
Community leaders have told me they have been overwhelmed by the reaction of local people as existing groups swelled in membership and new ones popped into existence to meet the crisis.
Community First, our local volunteer organisation, has also assisted this small army by mobilising quickly and getting straight to work in our towns and villages.
The jobs they are doing are many and varied - shopping, daily deliveries, running errands and trips to the pharmacy – it’s all part of the service. Some are making phone calls to isolated people to check they are OK, taxi firms are making sure residents can get to crucial hospital appointments.
East Hampshire District Council has been working alongside these volunteers, providing a service for people that have no other means of support. Through our virtual call centre residents can ask for the food or medicines they need to get through the crisis. A team of deployed members of staff are on call to deliver emergency food parcels, seven days a week to our vulnerable residents.
In the first three weeks of April we have taken 220 calls, making it one of the busiest in the county, and many of these appeals for help we have directed to the volunteer groups who are there to meet their needs.
The response has been comprehensive and co-ordinated. The work on the ground is keeping so many people safe and sound.
It warms my heart to see that we live in such an industrious, compassionate and supportive community.
We have always known the voluntary sector in East Hampshire was strong and vibrant. Through the council we issue hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants to support busy organisations and their community-enhancing projects.
But what we have seen during the pandemic far outstrips what we could have asked for or expected. People have come out in droves to offer what help they can and, just like the NHS and front-line staff, they should be applauded for that.
I want to say a big thank you to everyone in East Hampshire who put themselves forward to help when the virus struck. You are what makes this district the amazing place it is.
· If you need food or medicine during the lockdown and have no other means of support, please phone the helpline on 0333 370 4000
· If you would like to volunteer, please go to www.volunteerwessex.org